GRANT BLANKENSHIP/THE TELEGRAPH Mount de Sales eighth grader Miller Edwards watches senior football player Josh Abrams as he goes through some of the work out Monday afternoon to help strengthen his right knee following ACL surgery. Abrams is working hard in the weight room to rehabilitate an ACL tear that ended his football season and changed his hopes and plans for playing after high school.
Most high school football players who have the talent and skill set to play at the next level look forward to National Signing Day.
For many, it’s the day dreams are realized.
Those dreams are up in the air for Mount de Sales receiver Josh Abrams.
Abrams, a senior who entered his senior year as one of the top prospects in Middle Georgia, might or may not sign a scholarship Wednesday at Mount de Sales’ downtown library. He has interest from Savannah State, Tusculum, Mars Hill, Texas Southern and a junior college. He has some nibbles from other schools, but these new potential destinations are very different from the ones Abrams expected to look at this time last year.
“Josh is a guy capable of playing major college football,” Mount de Sales head coach Robert Slocum said.
That door might be closed for Abrams, however, after the dynamic receiver tore his ACL early in the second game of the 2011 season.
Five months ago, Abrams had scholarship offers from Sun Belt Conference schools Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee State, and he had interest from several other major college teams like Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech and UAB.
Abrams came off a big junior season in which he caught 30 passes for 559 yards and six touchdowns in the Cavaliers’ run-heavy offense. He impressed college coaches at camps at Georgia and Georgia Tech and at the National Underclassmen Combine in Atlanta last summer.
Most, if not all, interest waned following Abrams’ knee injury during his team’s 42-7 win over Southland on Sept. 2.
In the second quarter of that game, Abrams caught a screen pass and made a cut inside to beat a defender. He avoided the tackle and limped in for a touchdown. Slocum knew something was wrong following the touchdown, but it wasn’t until a few days later that the coaching staff and Abrams found out he tore the ligament.
Abrams initially believed he would miss a few weeks and continue to play without an ACL. Doctors advised him against it and told Abrams he could suffer further damage to his leg if he continued to play. The best option, if Abrams wanted to play college football, was to rehab and show coaches his knee would be ready to go once he got on campus.
In part because of the lack of firepower provided by Abrams, the Cavaliers struggled down the stretch once region play began and lost their final four games.
Most of the coaches recruiting Abrams told the senior to keep them informed of the rehab process, but that contact tapered off as months progressed.
Abrams, who said he took one week to feel bad for himself before moving on, said he understands colleges moving on to the next prospect on their list. It’s hard for a program to wait on a player with an injury, Abrams said.
In fact, Abrams has handled the injury very well publicly. He has shown both strength and maturity when talking to outsiders about the injury.
“It’s been hard, but I look at the bright side. I’m still blessed I’m going to be able to play next year (somewhere),” said Abrams, who is confident that someone will take a chance on him.
But Slocum said Abrams took the injury pretty hard and believed his senior year was wasted away. Abrams is also a standout basketball player who helped the Cavaliers advance to the GISA Class AAA Final Four in 2011.
“He’s a very hard worker, but he’s had a tough time with it like anyone else would,” Slocum said. “It has been tough on him and his mother. I try to imagine what I would have done had this happened to me my senior year. I’d be devastated. But he has stayed positive most of the time, and I think he’s in a good place right now.”
Abrams said he doesn’t care if he signs Wednesday. He believes he’ll get a chance either on signing day or later to play somewhere. It may actually be a benefit not to sign Wednesday, because slots likely will open at schools as prospects sign elsewhere.
Abrams said he’s happy he can support teammates Myles Swain and John Garrett Abernathy as they are expected to sign with Navy and Mercer, respectively.
“Some guys don’t get a second chance to play once they get hurt, and I do,” he said.